Benjamin Esham

Tap Tap Tap doubles down

Tap Tap Tap, the makers of Camera+ for iOS, got some heat a couple of weeks ago for Camera+ 4.2’s release notes:

[Those changes were] enough to justify calling it version 4.1. And then we thought about jumping on the bandwagon where we put Camera+ out as a whole new app and let existing customers pay for it all over again. And of course there’d be the ensuing sh__storm where those customers felt cheated and we’d have to backpedal and reverse that shortsighted decision.

So it was Clear that that would’ve been a knuckleheaded move so instead, we decided to treat our lovely customers fairly and make Camera+ 4.1 a free update as we’ve always done. But then we felt like it was all give and no take… so to make us feel better about giving-in too easily, we chose to call it version 4.2. That’ll teach you to mess with us.

This is a dig at Realmac Software, which in September released the new version of Clear as a separate app, meaning that existing users had to pay for the new version. After some users raised a stink Realmac backpedaled by backporting many of the changes into the existing Clear app (while releasing the rest as a new app called Clear+).

When I first saw the Camera+ 4.2 release notes I assumed that the person responsible for PR had just had a little too much snark with their coffee that morning. But today they doubled down in their release notes for version 4.2.1:

So the jury’s out… based on all the feedback from our last update, you nice guys & gals made it loud and clear that you really appreciate that we continuously update Camera+ AND that we don’t try to nickel-and-dime you in the process. There’ve been the cries of, “devs gotta eat!” by a small handful, but we’re more of the mindset that some devs can stand to shed a few pounds (we’re no stranger to the allure of the Baconator ourselves, so we can empathize).

In that blog post, John Casasanta includes “a little qualification”, which reads in part,

If we, or any other developers aren’t able to make ends meet through selling our apps, the solution is neither to blame nor to screw over your customers. It’s more along the lines of: get better at what you do… or find some other work that better suits you.

Being able to get out of bed at noontime and work out of your home in your fluffy bunny slippers is a privilege, not a right. And you need to earn that privilege. A lot of developers seem to have lost that perspective these days and sound far more entitled than the people who support them by buying their apps that they accuse of being entitled.

As a developer myself — albeit not one who receives income from the App Store — this attitude rankles coming from another developer. Casasanta implies that he doesn’t need Camera+ in order to put food on his table — great; that’s the dream — but I’m baffled why he’s so dismissive of the many others for whom that isn’t the case.

There’s been plenty said about the price dynamics of the App Store, and specifically about how paid-up-front apps seem to be becoming a harder sell. But far from trying to add nuance to this conversation, Casasanta seems to be deriding any pricing model other than selling an app for money up front. That model is great if users will go for it, but that’s happening less and less frequently these days. It’s not “entitlement” when developers try to explore different business models in an effort to stay afloat in a rapidly-changing market.

(There is also an important meta point to be made here. Tap Tap Tap seems slightly less jackassy when you read Casasanta’s qualification, but most users won’t. It was only while doing research for this essay that I discovered that Tap Tap Tap1 even published this kind of commentary. Release notes are the only standardized way for companies to communicate with their users after they’ve bought an app; I don’t understand why Tap Tap Tap would pour all of this arrogance into their release notes, only bothering to qualify their views in a separate venue that most of their users won’t ever visit.)

  1. “Tap Tap Tap” becomes more aesthetically offensive every time I type it. ↩︎